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Forty Ways to Care for Your Soul this Lent

During the forty days of Lent, you are invited to take better care of your soul. Here is a list of some traditional and not so traditional spiritual disciplines that may help you to grow in the knowledge and love of God.

  1. Call old friends to catch up, and thank them for being in your life
  2. Listen to music that moves you
  3. Refrain from gossiping and saying unkind things about others
  4. Go on a news/media fast for a period of time to lesson your anxiety
  5. Take more naps
  6. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen
  7. Clean out your closets and get rid of the unwanted stuff in your life
  8. Write a letter to a person who has wronged you, and then throw it away
  9. Participate in worship
  10. Give up drinking alcohol for Lent
  11. Set aside time each day to sit quietly with God, praying
  12. Read a book on spirituality by Henri Nouwen or Anne Lamott
  13. Give up eating out as much and donate that money to feed the hungry
  14. Make a list of five year, ten year, and twenty year goals for your life
  15. Spend more quality time with family and friends
  16. Participate in a class or retreat at your church
  17. Consider taking a break from people who are a toxic influence in your life

    Mary's Lemons

    I took this photo in Sorrento, Italy, where the lemon trees bear the largest and most flavorful fruit I’ve ever tasted. It reminds me that the fruits of the spirit will grow abundantly in the right setting.

  18. Exercise daily, breathing deeply, and giving thanks to God for your body
  19. Make a list of those whom you may have hurt
  20. Consider taking responsibility and making apologies
  21. Work to mend broken relationships
  22. At the end of each day, create a gratitude list
  23. Read the New Testament
  24. Cook and eat more consciously, making healthier choices, to be truly nourished
  25. Take stock of your finances and create a plan that reflects your values
  26. Tour a museum to enjoy looking at art
  27. Watch movies that make you laugh and cry
  28. Write a list of the things for which you feel sorry, your sins, and then ask God to forgive you, burning the list afterwards
  29. Spend time in nature noticing God’s hand at work in creation
  30. Go to the doctor or dentist, to care of your body
  31. Practice Breath Prayer while driving and waiting in lines, inhaling and exhaling and saying a mantra like, “God in me. Me in God.”
  32. Pick out a person you are worried about and do something thoughtful for them
  33. Choose a justice issue that worries you and talk with a friend about it
  34. Go to Starbucks less often and send the money you saved to your favorite charity
  35. Write a little every day, perhaps in a journal, even if it is just lists of things that are on your mind
  36. Take a road trip with a friend
  37. Consider how your work can be more like a ministry, day in and day out
  38. Make a list of the hymns and readings that you want to have at your own funeral
  39. Do less or do more, to achieve better balance in your life
  40. Resolve to spend time with people who may help you to become the person God intends you to be

 

—The Rev. Mary Luck Stanley

Spanking Is Not The Way

Jesus advocated a non-violent approach to difficult situations. He taught us to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies, and he told his disciples to put away their swords at the time of his arrest (Matt 5:39, 5:44, 26:52).  While Christ’s teachings on non-violence can be applied to international warfare, and adult interpersonal conflicts, I would like to focus on an important family issue – the spanking of children.

A 2013 Harris poll showed that 81% of Americans approve of parents spanking their children. Of course, parents want to correct the youngsters put into their care. Everyone can agree that discipline needs to take place in order to help our children grow and mature. One option is to use physical punishment. Sometimes the biblical verse, “Spare the rod, spoil the child” (Proverbs 13:24), is thrown into the mix.

Is spanking a violent act? Certainly not all these physical punishments are the same. Slapping a child in anger is different from a dispassionate and limited spanking. But can parents be moved beyond this one way of providing discipline, deciding that they will find more effective and less damaging ways of teaching children how to behave?

There are many secular reasons not to spank children. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and The American Psychological Association assert that spanking can emotionally harm both parents and children, and that it is one of the least effective methods of discipline. (To see more from these sources, visit: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/04/spanking.aspx or http://nospank.net/aap4.htm)

kiddosPediatrician Dr. Bill Sears writes that “hitting models hitting” and teaches children that violence is the way to solve problems. He advocates other avenues of discipline that have much better outcomes.

In the last few years, we have grown in awareness of the dangers of domestic abuse. If spouses should never hit each other, can we get to a place where can agree that it is also unacceptable for anyone to physically hurt their children? Shouldn’t the basic human right to not be hit or slapped by another person be the same for both adults and children?

That much used “spare the rod” verse can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The “rod” (shebet) can be used for guiding and protecting rather than hitting. More than that, Jesus modified the eye-for-an-eye culture of his day with a message of non-violence. He offers a challenging but ultimately more life-giving path of compassion and refraining from ever hurting others.

For all these medical, psychological, and biblical reasons, Christian parents may want to rethink their use of corporal punishment in favor of using more effective and less damaging forms of discipline. After all, the word discipline actually means “teaching” and there are many non-violent ways to teach so that children will learn to become kind, compassionate, and loving like Jesus.

—The Rev. Mark Stanley